Just Hit Send - Summerfire

by Grasshopper

Part I

I glanced around my bedroom one last time, checking to make sure I had everything. Course, for the lake, all I need are cutoffs and sneakers. I'd packed all my latest journals, excited that I'd be able to watch Kenny's face as he read them.

Every summer, since I could ever remember, my dads have taken me to the cabin for two weeks. The first time we went it had been winter and freezing and my Daddy had teased me about being in snow up to my eyeballs. They promised me before we left that first time, that we’d come back every year, just us. He kept his promise.

These two weeks are the best time of my whole year.Don’t get me wrong, I love Mom and Pop and even Nickie sometimes, but the time I spend with just my dads is the best ever. All my troubles in high school can be forgotten and I can just be myself, no one teasing me or calling me fag. I watch them and I know that one day, I’ll find someone to love like that.

I want to talk to Kenny, really talk to him this year. It makes me smile just thinking of the first time I met Kenny. I was eight and he had seemed so old. For two weeks, I trailed around behind him trying to help. Funny part was that Kenny never yelled at me or told me to get lost.

Kenny's dad was the local carpenter/repairman and he was teaching Kenny everything he knew. When my dads and I drove up to the cabin that summer the first thing we saw was the sagging front porch. A call to Joe Phillips was all that was needed. I stayed out of the way and watched.

Joe Phillips was a tall thin dark haired man, complete with smoker's cough and a salty tongue. I giggled every time the man said "Fuck" and he said it like every three words. "Ayup, looks like the fuckin' wood's rotten. Gonna haf ta replace the fuckin' center support. Gonna be a fuckin' mess."

My dads rolled their eyes at each other and stared at me as if to say, "You are soooo not hearing this. Don't tell Mama." My mama was real strict about cussing and when my daddies said fuck or shit, they had to put a dollar in the jar. Haha! I got to keep all the money. Papa D said 'shit' alllllll the time and Daddy yelled "Fuck me!" when he got mad. When I got a little older, I tried to provoke them so I could get some extra money. It worked real good till they figured it out. Grownups can be kinda dense.

Laying on my tummy through the center of the saggy inner tube swing, my favorite place to hang out, I had watched Mr. Phillips show my dads what needed to be done and but then my attention shifted to the boy who stood by his father. Skinny, tanned brown the color of oak leaves in the fall, just a pair of old worn cutoffs hanging low on his bony hips, tossled brown hair and a straight back, he had his hands shoved in the back pockets of his shorts. I smiled to see that his fingers were poking out through holes in the pockets. He just stood there listening to the grownups, rocking back and forth on the balls of his bare dirty feet. I wondered who the older boy was. He didn't look mean.

"JD, come meet Mr. Phillips and his son," Daddy called, so I slipped out of my resting place to walk over to the porch.

"Mr. Phillips..........Um, Joe. This is our son, JD. JD, Mr. Phillips is going to fix our porch. This is his son, Kenny."

I remember shaking hands with Mr. Phillips and him gripping too tight. Then all I remember from then on was Kenny.

He was very quiet. I learned later that he believed that there was no use in talking unless you had something of value to say and since most people don't listen anyway, why bother. I wanted to hear him talk. I wanted to listen ... so over the years, Kenny talked .... to me.

"Hello," I said shyly. "I'm eight."

He grinned. "Hello, Eight. I'm fifteen."

Hmmm, was he teasing me? I looked up into his round hazel eyes and decided 'No' cause all I saw was smiles.

"Haha.........I'm JD really."

"What's that stand for?"

"Just Dumb."

Kenny wrinkled his forehead. "Nah.......maybe Just Doofy."

That made me giggle. "What's your whole name?"

"Kenneth Deacon Phillips. The Deacon is my Mama's maiden name."

"Huh?"

"Like before she was married, Doofy."

"Oh," I said, feeling stupid.

"Wanna go see the lake?"

Turning to my dads, I pleaded with my eyes. "Go," Daddy said, "Just be careful. Watch him, Kenny."

"I will."

I felt like a baby but I still wanted to go to see the lake with Kenny. I wanted to go anywhere with Kenny. I remember walking around the old cabin, down the pine needled path and out to the ancient dock. The sun reflected off the water and the day was just hotting up. I watched Kenny walk to the end of the dock, stand poised for a second, turn, smile at me and dive smoothly into the clear water.

I ran to the edge of the wooden planks and sighed when his head cleared the sparkling water. Rising up in a spray of sunlight, he shook his head like my dog Fiddlesticks and the drops flashed. "Come on in," he called.

I was embarrassed. He had been ready to jump in while I was still town-dressed. I didn't want to stand right there in front of him and pull my clothes off, showing my stupid pathetic skinny self to someone who was very rapidly becoming a god in my eyes. I shook my head. I didn't even have on cool boxers or anything, just Scooby Doo underwear. I'd die before I'd let him see those!

Looking at me for a minute, he paddled over to the ladder and climbed up.

Sitting down on the end of the dock, he patted the planks next to him. I scrambled to sit by him, not too close but not too far away either. He was wet, nearly naked. My mind was in overload. I was eight. What did I know?

"Can you swim?"

"Yes."

"Then what?"

I ducked my head, squishing my eyes tight as embarrassed tears pushed at my lids.

"Hey ..... hey," he said quietly, "You okay, little guy?"

"Uh huh," I managed to squeak out. "I just ..... I'm not dressed to go swimming."

"So skivvy off, then."

"What?" Did he mean go away?

"Haven't you ever taken your clothes off in front of guys?"

Oh.........."No."

"Well, go to the cabin and get some shorts on. Go!" He grinned at me and whacked my arm, laughing as I jumped up. I left him laughing, the sun dancing along his shiny hair.

I tore into the cabin, scrambled for a pair of jeans, grabbed the fingernail scissors from Papa D's bathroom kit and hacked the jeans off so they hit the middle of my thighs. It was a new pair of $100 Diesel jeans I had begged for but Fuck Me!! (sorry Daddy... dollar) I wanted to look just like Kenny.

The coolest thing we did that summer was find our secret place. It was just a hollow in an old rummy oak tree but when we scooped out all the old squirrel nest leavings and leaves, it was really dry. Just big enough for small objects or secret notes, we laughed and surprised each other with silly little things like a Butterfinger or a shiny lake rock or a scarlet bird feather. Kenny teased me, calling me Boo Radley and when I said "Who?" he rode his bike all the way to town and checked out To Kill a Mockingbird for me from the library. He read it out loud while we sat in an old rowboat under the shade of the willow branches. I wanted to be Scout. He laughed and said I couldn't cause Scout was a girl. I argued that she was the bravest kid in the book. The secret place in the oak tree was thereafter known as Scout's Mailbox.

The rest of that first summer with Kenny is history. I followed him around like a little puppy, getting in the way, asking so many questions, I know he wanted to throttle me, but he was always there. I found the path to his house and I attached myself to him every day. He was 15 and I was 8. He thought I was a little kid and I thought he was God.


Over the years, we went back for two weeks every summer. I couldn't wait. I wanted to call Kenny on the phone but I didn't dare. He was like this glowing special person set high on this pedestal that I could just look up at and feel better. Those two weeks became an oasis that helped me through the tough times.

He taught me to be quiet. He taught me to laugh outloud. He didn't laugh when I messed up and he never made fun of me. He was always happy to see me every summer when we drove up and I ran down the path to his house. He always smiled when I tried to keep the tears back as I watched the lake fade from view when we left. I always wanted it to be more than me being a tagalong kid but I never knew what that something more was that I wanted. I felt it but I didn't know what it was.

When I was eleven, we talked about girls. At his superior age of 18, Kenny knew everything about girls. I told him that I tried so hard to think Miranda was cute and that Sally had a pretty smile and even that Annie was getting quite a set of knockers but .......... And he told me to hold on, wait, give it a year or two more before I said the words out loud.

That summer, he gave me the light. He gave it to me to hold on to when I couldn't sleep. "See my light, over on the end of my dock?" he said one night as we sat as usual, swinging our feet at the end of my dock. I cocked my head and peered into the darkness and saw the yellow glow.

"You can't sleep; I know that tumble brain of yours. When it all gets too much, find that light. Ask yourself what I'd do; what I'd tell you. Maybe it'd be the right thing, maybe not. But at least it'll get you thinking."

"But how do I find the light when I'm not here?"

"In your mind, JD. You can always find me in your mind."

When I was 12, I asked Daddy to put a light on the end of our dock. He called the owner and the next day, Joe Phillips came to hook it all up. It ran from a switch at the back door and I turned it on every night so it could talk to Kenny's light on the other side of the lake. Kenny laughed but I think he liked it. I even made up a code: 2 blinks for 'Hi' and 3 blinks for 'Think about me please'. He never made fun of me and I blinked my light 3 times a lot.

When I was 13, I said, "Well, Kenny. It's been a year or two and I still like to look at boys instead of girls." I can remember so well the look on his face, not aversion, not even sadness, just kind of like his whole body went 'hmmph'.

He wasn't disappointed exactly, more like he knew it was coming and backed away.

"You gotta do what ya gotta do, little guy," he said as he whacked the nail into the window frame, talking around the nails in his mouth. "You love who you love; you want what you want. That's the sure thing. You talked to your dads about it?"

It was funny. We'd talked about everything else in the whole world but he'd never asked me why I had two dads or where my mother was. Obviously I had a mother somewhere. Even gay kids aren't found in the cabbage patch.

"No, I haven't told them yet. They know, I think and of course it will be okay but they will be sad because, well, they had lots of trouble when they found out they um ....... loved each other."

"What kind of trouble?" Kenny asked, listening hard.

"Well, Daddy's Papa didn't like it and it made it hard for him and Papa D to be together. It took years for them to finally be happy. They don't want that for me."

"But, if they're gay then what's the real problem?" Kenny always saw right through me.

"I can't talk to them about ummm .... you know," I blushed.

"Oh........gottcha," he smiled. "Yeah, talking about "ummm" to your parents is kinda tough. What ya need to know?"

And that's how it started. I could ask Kenny anything. If he didn't know, he'd find out. He explained all about sex with girls cause that's what he knew about, having 'done it' with all the pretty girls within a 20 mile radius. My dream that he would one day realize he was gay and want me faded slowly away but he was still my best friend. He gave me my first journal that summer. He said I needed to write all that stuff that crashed around in my head before it made me crazy. I wrote all my thoughts; about life, boys, being gay, Kenny.

At school, I was out and I took whatever came my way with my head up, knowing my dads were proud of me but inside, down in that tiny place where you feel proud of yourself .... I didn't. It wasn't really the thought of Kenny that kept me from really looking for some one special. It's just that I couldn't find anyone who wanted to talk just to me and who'd really listen. Like Kenny did for those two weeks every summer.

My 14th year, I discovered summerfire. Kenny and I were just floating in the warm lake, our butts poked into inner tubes, our arms hanging over the edges. He was 21 but it didn't seem weird. I felt right when I was with Kenny. He would push my tube with his toes and I'd spin, laughing, as I tried not to tump over. We watched the storm clouds move over us and to the west. That's when we saw it......summerfire. Now, I know it's heat lightning but the sky explodes. Fireworks and pinwheels and magic. That's when I knew I loved him. I watched his face, those chocolate eyes dancing, long lashes brushing his cheeks as he blinked into the sun. He was still skinny but toned and I wanted to look just like him. We watched the summerfire shoot from one cloud to the next, straight across the sky and I knew life couldn't get any better than this.

"When I see heat lightning, I'll always think of you," he said. And to this day, when I see summerfire, I remember Kenny.

I knew I loved him. Not that stupid 'I want to giggle every time I see him' or 'I want to put his picture under my pillow'. Not that girly stuff. I wanted to be with him, learn from him, just be with Kenny. And right that minute, with the lightning dancing, he looked at me and I knew he somehow felt the same way.

The summer I was 15, my Papa D was real sick and we couldn't go to the lake. I felt horrible for being kinda mad about it. My daddy spent every minute at the hospital sitting by Papa's bed, holding his hand, crying sometimes. I didn't know what to do so I would just sit quietly in the corner and get him coffee every time he asked. I thought about Kenny and wondered what he was working on.

Papa D got better but the pneumonia had left him weak and Daddy said we couldn't go to the lake that summer. I was on my third journal and only the thought that Kenny would see them, read them, kept me going.

I had my first I guess you'd call it 'experience' that lost summer. I thought of it as a lost summer because I didn't see Kenny and I knew that he was getting too old to have me for a friend. I was 15 but he was a man now, 22 years old and too grownup for a kid.

I was on the beach when I met Marcus. I hadn't seen him before so I figured he was a temp, a visitor to this part of my beach. He was 13 and beautiful. I watched him on his board and he saw me watching. The dunes were high and the sun was setting. Does everyone remember their first time? The first time you touch someone else? The first time you realize that you may be able to do it better for yourself but the feel of someone else touching you makes all the difference.

He was sitting on his board in the wet sand when I walked over. We talked the usual nothing talk and he never looked straight in my eyes. Everyone talks about gaydar but mine never seemed to function correctly. I didn't trust it and never acted on it. That night though, that kid might as well have been wearing a blinking neon sign cause I knew ..... I just knew.

God, I was scared but I was older, a big 15, and he was asking for something with those big brown eyes. Something I could give. In the back of my mind, as dumb as it sounds, I was thinking 'This will be something hot for my journal'. Always thinking of Kenny, no matter what I did.

We talked. He liked Japanese manga. I was cool with that. I told him about my dirt bike and he asked me what CDs I liked. Just guys getting to know a little about each other. But, the air, God, the air was so thick I could have cut it with a knife. I just knew.

We leaned against the seawall and no one was there, just us and the sound of the waves. We talked some more and I reached over him to get my sunglasses, just letting my arm brush against his legs. He jumped like I'd used a cattle prod on him.

"Whoa," I laughed.

"You just startled me, you know," he said, the sound low in his throat.

I was so hard. I knew if I touched him, he would be straining against the navy blue of those baggies.

"JD?"

"Yeah?"

"You ever ....?"

"Ever what?" I had to make sure we were on the same page.

"Um, you got a girlfriend?"

"Nah, ... you?"

"Uh Uh."

"Do you ever ..... you know?"

"Not unless you tell me."

He was wiggling now and I thought if I didn't do this, didn't touch him, I'd explode. Right there on the beach; just burst into a trillion bits. I eased my hand over to his leg and let my little finger rest against his erection. I felt it jerk.

**What now, Kenny? I thought crazily. I remembered what he told me. " Ya gotta do what ya gotta do" and I had to laugh, thinking of telling him about this. Somewhere along here, Marcus had kinda rested his head against my shoulder and my hand was right ... there.

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" I asked softly.

He blinked and answered, "A writer ... I love to...............oh," he moaned as my hand reached under the elastic of his baggies and softly gripped him.

"What do you write?" I purred in his ear.

"I ..... I .... Adventures like in spac...................OH!" his voice trailed off as my hand worked a little harder, a little faster.

"Write about this," I whispered then couldn't talk anymore. My mouth open, staring at my hand jerking him off, the huffing sounds coming from him, everything colliding. He came quickly, all over my hand. I came from touching another person. I don't know which one of us said "Oh God" but we both meant it.

I saw him once more before he left but he was with his mom and I just nodded and he nodded back and we smiled. Marcus ..... cool name. I wrote all about it in my journal ......... for Kenny to read.

The summer I turned 16, my dads asked me if I still wanted to go to the lake. I guess they figured I was too old to want to go anywhere with them.

It was always funny about my daddy and my papa. I'd seen how some people treat them, how hatred can be right below the surface and pop up when you least expect it ..... at the grocery store, at a concert, at dinner if they hold hands or God forbid, kiss. I've seen the look in Daddy's eyes when someone makes a nasty comment about fags or queers. It's always been so weird to me cause I grew up with them and all I've ever seen is love and devotion and trust and passion. I can't imagine two people more protective, more inside each other than they are. Do you know what I mean by inside each other? Not physically, though growing up I've heard plenty of noise coming from their bedroom where I assume they are trying to do just that. No, I just mean to be one person.......not knowing where one starts and the other leaves off. They've been together so long now that they finish each other's sentences and do that 'talking without talking' thing. I only hope that one day I can find someone anywhere nearly as perfect as that. They worked hard to get where they are. They deserve to be happy. I love to be with them even when they tease me.

I look just like my daddy. Tall and wiry, my hair is longer of course, flopping in my eyes and curling over my neck but it's the same blond, the same white gold in the sun. I even have his eyes, big and green and full of hope. I have my mama's nose and her full bottom lip. Daddy says I have my grandpa's hands and feet, says I'll be tall like him. I don't know cause I've never met my grandpa. I never bring it up cause it makes my daddy sad. I don't care about him cause if he makes my parents sad, then his loss .....fuck him!

I couldn't wait to get to the cabin ..... to Kenny. I was 16 now. Surely he'd look at me and see who I was. I had my journals and my summer story and I had so many things to ask him. He always had time.

I ran down the path towards his house and hammered on the door. He lived there alone now since his dad had gone to live with his sister in Careyville. I had asked him why he never went to college, why fixing people's houses was enough and he always looked at me like I was JD (just doofy). "I like living just like this. No one hassling me, taking my time, I got no one to answer to but me." He always answered me the same way.

I banged on the door and stepped back when a woman, lady .... No more like a girl, opened it and gave me a funny look. "What?" she said, none too politely.

"I'm .. I'm looking for Kenny."

"He's over at old man Keller's place fixing the water heater," she answered.

I heard a small voice and saw a little boy wander toward the door to peek around the lady's legs.

Curiosity overwhelmed me. Rudely, I asked, "Who are you?"

She gave me a glare and answered, "I'm Angie Phillips. Kenny's wife."

I guess my mouth dropped open. I suppose I looked like an idiot. I felt like a fool. "His what?"

She looked at me like I was retarded and spoke v e r y s l o w l y. "I'm Kenny's wife and this is his boy. Who are you?"

I know it was wrong but I couldn't help it. I ran. I ran all the way home and flung my journals across the room and flung myself on my bed. I was not even trying not to cry. Married? A boy? Where had they been all this time? Why hadn't I known? With all my 16 years of pent up emotion, I cried until the tears turned to hiccups and the hiccups to low moans. When my dads got back from the store, I had cried myself to sleep.

Later that afternoon, I was sitting out on the end of the dock, my usual place to have deep talks with Kenny when I heard him say my name. I didn't want to answer. Yeah, I know .... real grownup. But hey, I was 16 and this hurt like hell.

I felt him sit down beside me. "Hey, kiddo."

I did what any red blooded American gay kid would do. I pouted.

"You gonna talk to me?"

"No."

"Okay, I'll be around if you change your mind." He made to get up.

"No, wait. Kennnnnnnyyyyyyyy !!" I wailed and grabbed his arm. "Who is that? Where did she come from? You have a son? Why didn't you tell me?" All my words were flying in every direction, bouncing off him and ramming into him at the same time.

I felt his arm go around my shoulders and I curled up, just like I had so many times before. "I didn't know either, kiddo. I knew I'd umm ... known her before but she didn't tell me about the child until last fall. She needed help and I had to help her."

"Do you ..... love her, Kenny?" My voice sounded strange. Like it was in a cave, all echoing.

I felt him tighten up. "I got to try, kiddo. She needs me."

"Do you love HIM?" I spit out. God, I was pathetic, jealous of a little kid. Hell, I'm a little kid.

"He's my son, JD. I need to love him. He's a good little guy."

"What about ..........?" Oh, God. I didn't say that, did I?

"Shhhhh. Look at me. I know how you feel. Like a big balloon just burst and you're spinning out of control. Believe me," he sighed, "I know just how you feel. But, this is a good thing. We can still be friends. You're still my best pal. There are things in life that you can't have. Things that make you stronger by not having them."

I didn't know what he meant. Did he know how I felt about him? Duhhh, how could he not know? Were there things he wanted but couldn't have? I was confused.

Daddy and Papa D walked down on to the dock, sitting down by us. Never ones to beat around the bush, Daddy said, "What's up?"

"JD just got a bit of news dropped on him without warning," Kenny said sadly.

"And that would be?" Papa D asked, putting his hand on my arm.

I sniffled, feeling like a dope. "Kenny's married and he has a son." I buried my face in my Papa's chest.

It's funny now when I think back on that afternoon. My daddy and my papa were practically old enough to be Kenny's fathers. But back then, I thought Kenny was as old as they were. Kids don't really think globally. It was like three grownups against one kid ...... me. I swear. If one of them had said anything about puppy love or first crush or crap I would have screamed.

"Hon," Daddy said softly. "Were you expecting something from Kenny?"

"No," I sniffled, "Well, I don't know. Yes, I guess."

"Kenny's 23 years old, JD. He's been your friend for years. He's never made you think that, has he?" Daddy wasn't being threatening. He knew Kenny had always been safe with me. It was years later, when Papa D told me about the look that passed from Kenny to my Dads. The look that made my daddy sigh and my papa hold me tight. The look that said that Kenny would never tell me how he felt. Years later when it no longer made a difference.

I had one more talk with Kenny Phillips before I left the lake that summer.

"Growing up is shit, Kenny."

"Tell me about it, little guy."

"The light? Will it still be there?"

"Always. Always look for the light."

"Kenny, if I'd been older?"

"In a heartbeat."

We left a lot unsaid. I grew up. I grew away from my summers on the lake. They became a distant memory, but I never forgot the one person who always listened .... who always talked to me ... who wanted me but let it slip through his fingers. I vowed never to let a heartbeat stand in my way.

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